Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chocolate Jumbles- Thanksgiving Edition

As previously mentioned, my mother asked me to bake one of my historic recipes for dessert this Thanksgiving. I chose one of my personal favorites, the Chocolate Jumbles from the 1886 Cocoa and Chocolate. This time, however, I had my mother as helper, and learned just how important it is to learn cooking from someone else. Of course my mom had never made Jumbles before, but as a more experienced cook than I, she had some tips and insight that made the experience different than the first.
My first attempt at Jumbles...

I told my mom about people’s responses to the first Jumbles- that many people found the cocoa flavor to be just too much. She suggested something obvious that I never would have thought of on my own- reducing the amount of chocolate. Thus the process of experimentation and revision, that makes a recipe something difficult to keep a permanent record of, began.

My mother’s next insight came as I was adding “flour sufficient” to turn the consistency of the dough into something like piecrust. The last time, after adding seemingly endless cups of flour, my friends and I gave up and just worked with sticky dough. My mother, of infinite patience, kept adding flour, trusting that, if the recipe said it should get to a piecrust point, it would get to a piecrust point. And she was right! After adding a whole heckuva lot of flour, the dough reached a point where it could be rolled out and cut into strips. As a result, the cookies looked and tasted a lot smoother than those from my previous attempt.
...compared with my Thanksgiving Jumbles.

I brought the Jumbles to Thanksgiving. They were a great talking point for our family friends, and were seemingly enjoyed by all. So what did I learn? Don’t be afraid to alter recipes to accommodate others' tastes. Have patience when cooking. Always listen to your mother. And most relevant to this project, that we can never really know what these recipes were like originally. Everyone has a different interpretation of how to follow a recipe. The chocolate jumbles people made in 1886 likely varied from house to house, just as my chocolate jumbles differed from those I made with my mom. Food history, like history overall, is incredibly complex. It comes to us in terms that require substantial individual interpretation, and we must be careful to remember that this is our interpretation only, not how things actually were.

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